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Old 02-10-2009, 07:08 PM   #1
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Default Federer owes debt to Nadal

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/spo...cle5653849.ece

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Roger Federer is hurting. The Swiss maestro is at home near Basle nursing a tired body and shattered ego and wondering if he has it within him to muster the life-force to defeat the youthful conquistador who has done him over in their past three grand-slam tournament finals.

How Federer responds to that question in the privacy of his mind will determine whether he has a chance - and it is now nothing more than a chance - of winning the two titles that will take him into the uplands of sporting immortality.

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier will probably for ever have the last word on great sporting rivalries, but there is something about the tectonic collision between Federer and Rafael Nadal that has taken their struggle for supremacy beyond anything we have seen in tennis.

It is not just the exquisite contrast in styles and temperaments and the special talent that, in their unique ways, they share. It is not just that they have elevated each other's games to levels that leave us shaking our heads in disbelief instead of merely clapping. It is not even that they have produced two successive five-set finals, first at Wimbledon last July and now in Melbourne, so epic that Tolstoy could have written novels about them.

No, the true meaning of this rivalry - as with that of all great rivalries - is to be found deep within the two men as they ask questions of each other that they never imagined they would have to answer on a court.

There was a time when Federer's pursuit of Pete Sampras's record of 14 grand-slam titles had all the trappings of a procession, particularly after he defeated Fernando González, of Chile, without breaking sweat in the 2007 Australian Open to move into double figures. He was, like Ali in 1966, surveying a world so bereft of adequate challengers that his opponents seemed part of the act. Here you go, Roger, why don't you pass me; here, matey, a nice forehand for you to smash away a winner.

It was not that his opponents were not trying hard enough; it is just that, when there is an unbridgeable chasm separating one player from the rest, sport becomes choreography.

But by the end of that monster of a final in Melbourne on Sunday, Federer was utterly, almost pitifully, vanquished. We have seen him tearful before - in victory and defeat - but in his isolation amid 15,000 spectators, he quivered and shook, his body and mind struggling to come to terms with the detonation of an ambition he had nursed so preciously since his defeat in SW19. “God, it's killing me,” he said, shoulders hunched, boyish face downcast.

Federer's emotional concussion was amplified because he believed he had the beating of Nadal on the hard courts of Melbourne. He thought, deep inside, that he was on the verge of dispelling the demons that the Spaniard had sent spinning into his path. But the younger man responded to Federer's opening onslaught by raising his game and marshalling his gladiatorial spirit in a way that left Federer, by the end of the fifth set, hopelessly bewildered.

Nadal has been rightly lauded for his mental strength and physical stamina, but he also possesses a brilliant tactical brain. Part of the joy of his contests with Federer is watching the way he mercilessly tests the arc of the Federer backhand, those high, looping, teasing topspins forcing the Swiss to execute a stroke that looks almost vaudevillian.

Federer responded in Melbourne by stepping in and taking the backhand, where possible, on the up. But Nadal was not discouraged, switching the play, using the expanses of the court, testing Federer's legs, before shunting it back into the backhand side. The ebb and flow, thrust and counter-thrust, was magical.

How Federer responds to his latest setback is the most urgent and intriguing question in sport. In the recesses of his mind, the Swiss probably yearns for his youthful opponent just to go away and leave him in peace as he seeks to reach the milestone of 15 grand-slam titles that, for so long, seemed like a formality. But the curious fact is that Nadal, by defeating his rival, by exposing his vulnerabilities and technical imperfections, by testing his character in ways it has never been tested before, has coaxed Federer into revealing new dimensions of greatness.

That, of course, is the way sport works. Ali was at his most imperious between 1965 and 1967 as he tap-danced his way through a succession of title defences, but his greatness as a boxer was forged later in the white heat of Kinshasa, Manila and, yes, even Madison Square Garden, when he was defeated for the first time by a crusading Frazier.

Ali was forced to look deep inside himself during that extraordinary contest and he had to plumb new depths of character to set out on the comeback trail, defeating Frazier in their return before rope-a-doping George Foreman into submission in a jungle clearing in what was formerly known as Zaire.

Federer has already revealed character aplenty, not just in his epic defeat by Nadal at Wimbledon and his thrilling triumph amid the din of Flushing Meadows last September; he also did so at the Rod Laver Arena on Sunday. He came within an inch of taking Nadal down, a few points here and there proving the difference in a match of kaleidoscopic shifts in fortune and momentum. Yes, Federer was forced once again to taste defeat, but this was a defeat that added to his legacy rather than diminished it, even if he did slowly unravel towards the end of the final set.

Nadal will loom large over Federer's every waking thought as the Swiss attempts to regroup, the world No1's muscular shadow forcing Federer to ask himself a string of searching questions. Should I enlist the services of a coach? Should I remould the backhand to cope with the vertiginous bounce of Nadal's topspin? Should I cut the amount of court time and get down the gym to fashion a level of fitness comparable to the indefatigable Spaniard? Should I restructure my season to focus exclusively on Wimbledon and the US Open?

But amid the questions, Nadal has also handed his greatest rival a priceless, if daunting, opportunity. It is the same opportunity that Frazier handed Ali, McEnroe handed Borg, Prost handed Senna, Duran handed Leonard and Spassky handed Fischer. It is an opportunity to demonstrate the resilience that so many of Federer's erstwhile cheerleaders think is beyond him. It is an opportunity to make believers of those who question his mettle.

But ultimately it is an opportunity to make a believer of himself - and that, one imagines, is likely to prove the greatest challenge of all.
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Old 02-10-2009, 07:23 PM   #2
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

Very good article, thank you very much for posting.
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Old 02-10-2009, 07:32 PM   #3
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

great read and well written, I hope he will answer those question soon enough
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Old 02-10-2009, 11:25 PM   #4
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

I thought it was a rather poor article in which an unorignal message was packed in lousy hyperboles.

Thanks for posting though.
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Old 02-10-2009, 11:51 PM   #5
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal



Does someone get paid to write something like this?
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Old 02-10-2009, 11:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

Very smooochy article that reads well but only deals with trivialities and completely misses the point. I don't even think the author watched the AO final. How else could the author come to the conclusion that Nadal won solely due his tactical and technical brilliance etc etc. Nowhere in the article is the mental weakness and choking against Nadal that caused Federer to lose the match even mentioned!!! To anyone who watched the match that was all too obvious.
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Old 02-11-2009, 03:34 AM   #7
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

crikey... that hack has respect for himself...
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Old 02-11-2009, 04:46 AM   #8
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

Please. What Debt. Roger would have won 20 Slams by now if it wasn't for Rafa. He'd have at least 2 french Opens and 6 Wimbeldons. Roger is miserable just like he made Roddick miserable. Do you think Roddick is thankful to Roger?
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Old 02-11-2009, 05:46 AM   #9
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

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Originally Posted by cyrusking View Post
Please. What Debt. Roger would have won 20 Slams by now if it wasn't for Rafa. He'd have at least 2 french Opens and 6 Wimbeldons. Roger is miserable just like he made Roddick miserable. Do you think Roddick is thankful to Roger?
The main difference is that Roddick is still respectful when Federer beats him, and always admits that Federer is the superior player.
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Old 02-11-2009, 06:11 AM   #10
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

Hyperbolic and illogical article.
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Old 02-11-2009, 06:36 AM   #11
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

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Please. What Debt. Roger would have won 20 Slams by now if it wasn't for Rafa. He'd have at least 2 french Opens and 6 Wimbeldons. Roger is miserable just like he made Roddick miserable. Do you think Roddick is thankful to Roger?
My thoughts exactly. I don't buy this concept that's being thrown around nowadays saying Nadal improves Federer's legacy. Before 2008 Federer was swatting opposition like flies and looked like he was leagues ahead of anyone and everyone else.

Once Djokovic and Nadal beat him in the first 3 GS's of 2008 the suggestion came that Federer was dominating during a mug era and didn't have any real opposition.

It didn't help that Roddick, Hewitt, Baghdatis, Gonzalez and other previous Grand Slam finalists no longer looked like credible opponents.

The last time Safin won a tournament was January 2005 (Australian Open) and has only made 2 finals since, both in the Kremlin Cup.

Gonzalez has never won an ATP Masters Series or a Grand Slam, and has only 3 titles outside of clay.

Hewitt has only won 3 ATP tournaments since 2005, and hasn't won a Masters Series or a GS since 2003.

Baghdatis has only won 2 ATP titles in his career.


Now you compare this to Djokovic, who has won 4 masters series, a masters cup and a Grand Slam in the last 2 years, and Nadal who has 5 Masters Series (11 in total) and 4 Grand Slams (6 in total) in the last 2 years.


Conclusion: Nadal doesn't make Federer look better, he only makes the previous era look really weak. It would be more accurate to say that Nadal owes a debt to Federer who makes his 6 Grand Slams look even more special.
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Old 02-11-2009, 07:00 AM   #12
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

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Originally Posted by BackhandMissile View Post
My thoughts exactly. I don't buy this concept that's being thrown around nowadays saying Nadal improves Federer's legacy. Before 2008 Federer was swatting opposition like flies and looked like he was leagues ahead of anyone and everyone else.

Once Djokovic and Nadal beat him in the first 3 GS's of 2008 the suggestion came that Federer was dominating during a mug era and didn't have any real opposition.

It didn't help that Roddick, Hewitt, Baghdatis, Gonzalez and other previous Grand Slam finalists no longer looked like credible opponents.

The last time Safin won a tournament was January 2005 (Australian Open) and has only made 2 finals since, both in the Kremlin Cup.

Gonzalez has never won an ATP Masters Series or a Grand Slam, and has only 3 titles outside of clay.

Hewitt has only won 3 ATP tournaments since 2005, and hasn't won a Masters Series or a GS since 2003.

Baghdatis has only won 2 ATP titles in his career.


Now you compare this to Djokovic, who has won 4 masters series, a masters cup and a Grand Slam in the last 2 years, and Nadal who has 5 Masters Series (11 in total) and 4 Grand Slams (6 in total) in the last 2 years.


Conclusion: Nadal doesn't make Federer look better, he only makes the previous era look really weak. It would be more accurate to say that Nadal owes a debt to Federer who makes his 6 Grand Slams look even more special.

federer creates nadal's legacy...nadaltards should be happy federer exists to do this.
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Old 02-11-2009, 07:34 AM   #13
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

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Originally Posted by TVTennis View Post
The main difference is that Roddick is still respectful when Federer beats him, and always admits that Federer is the superior player.
And even if he didn't admit it, how can you be superior to someone who has 13 times more slams than you and a +14/15 H2H record against you.

Somethings don't need to be said.
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:21 AM   #14
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

great article, cheers for the post
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Old 02-11-2009, 11:55 AM   #15
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Default Re: Federer owes debt to Nadal

Yes, Federer owes Nadal something: 2007 Wimbledon. I think that one was for Rafa.

I agree that Rafa is Roger's chance to make his career even more impressive. Who would doubt he is far above anyone else in tennis history if he defeated Nadal in RG and Wimbledon this year? The only problem with that is reality. Reality is a bitch sometimes. :P
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